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Opinion

Opinion: Recurring themes and a game of bingo for the Putin show

Every year, Russia's president Vladimir Putin faces hundreds of journalists at his annual press conference. This time around, he offered reassurance and some strong language, writes DW's Juri Rescheto.

My colleagues and I just downloaded a fun game called "Putin Bingo 2015." It features the Russian president's 25 most-used expressions in his annual press conference. Among them are the top three: "tough times," "our partners are not sharp-sighted enough" and "I will check that personally." The rules of the game are simple: Just check off one of the expressions when you hear Putin utter it. The first player to get all those on his card wins.

Everything is worse compared to last year

As always, the Russian president started off with an anecdote this year. Putin is known for his euphemisms, quirky fables and analogies when delivering bad news. For instance, he was asked to assess the economy, to which the president quipped, "Last year we thought we were going through bad times. This year, we know they were still good times." That means things cannot get worse. It was Putin's most honest answer in the entire three-hour show. Everything that followed was merely meant to reassure people.

DW Russisch Juri Rescheto

Juri Rescheto of DW's Russia desk

The GDP statistics, which Putin presented for almost half an hour, were supposed to provide evidence that the situation is not so bad. The same went for all domestic issues, ranging from the payment of pensions to the corruption scandal involving the attorney general and the murder of liberal politician Boris Nemtsov. Putin promised that the authorities would investigate the cases thoroughly and that one should not resort to speculation. Then he added, "By the way, that was a good question, thank you," a ritual that conveys his fear that pro-government media lacks the power to control public opinion and let the situation in the country get out of hand. That is why he prefers to soothe everyone.

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Aggressive towards Turkey, laid back about the USA

Putin's response to four questions about Turkey (during which "stab in the back" could be checked on our bingo cards) showed that the Kremlin wants to continue to legitimize its power by military and nationalist means and that its system works fine in defense mode. He said that he did not wish to work together with current Turkish leaders. Putin's "I do not see any prospect" (also on the bingo cards) means that the conflict will last a long time. And Turkey has "decided to lick the Americans in a certain place." Oops! That's not the kind of language a statesman should be using - well, unless he's called Putin. But he probably doesn't know whether the United States really needed that comment.

On the subject of the US, the Russian president expressed himself cautiously. Putin continued this new rhetoric towards Washington since his state of the nation address two weeks ago. He agrees with Obama. The two nations want to work together to resolve the Syria conflict, particularly on a political level. The only catch is President Assad. But at least today Putin said he did not want to "impose his will on the Syrian people."

After three hours, one of my colleagues yelled "Bingo!" All his buzzwords were used up and a few new ones had been added. Vladimir Putin was true to himself.

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